Augusta, GA (WJBF) – It was the best of reactions. It was the worst of reactions. Two local nurses received the Pfizer vaccine within hours of each other. One experienced almost no side effects. The other is still suffering from side effects more than a week later.
Jewette Mukenge is a Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care at the VA Hospital. Her side effects were almost nonexistent.
“The typical reaction is what I had. Just right at the area of injection, I had some soreness, some tenderness. But no redness, no rash. No systemic reactions or anything.”
Lakisha Johnson is an ER Nurse at University Hospital. Hers were more severe.
“The side effects, for the most part, have been bronchospasms, which I do have Reactive Airway Disease, specifically asthma. And what I’ve been experiencing is random, very random, asthma attacks.”
Mukenge and Johnson both received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on December 18th. While Mukenge’s side effects are minor, Johnson’s are not. Also with her asthma attacks, she also says she has low-grade fever, a mild cough, and body ache. She says these symptoms are the body’s immune response and a sign that the vaccine is working.
“I do think this may be unique to the COVID vaccine specifically.”
Because of the severity of her reaction, Johnson decided not to take the booster shot. Mukenge says she will be taking hers.
Both women felt it was important to chronicle their experience with the vaccine on social media, because they say they owe transparency to the public as frontline health care workers
“But I went a step further as opposed to just giving friends who came to me directly and associates who came to me directly instead of just the verbal.,” said Mukenge. “That’s why I chose to post things on Facebook. Because sometimes seeing is believing.’”
This new vaccine has sparked a national conversation about the history of why many African Americans have a deep mistrust of medicine. I asked both women about their thoughts as it is related to the vaccine.
“Terrible things were done, with that lack of knowledge of what was being done and lack of consent and permission,” Johnson said. “I think it is bright to be knowledgeable about the vaccine. To be knowledgeable about COVID. To know the signs, symptoms, things that can and will happen. And I think it’s very important to know before choosing to be vaccinated.”
“First I’d say, I understand and I get it. Because I am not too far from relatives who were directly touched or indirectly touched by the lack of trustworthiness of health care. Verbally I say, I am in favor of vaccines that have gone through the process of being tested and found tried and true,” said Mukenge.
Both say they believe strongly in the science and medicine behind the vaccine and strongly urge everyone who can take it to do so.
“If you care about yourself and those around you, and those in your community that you come in contact with. Students, coworkers, colleagues consider getting the vaccine. Because you don’t want to get the virus,” urged Mukenge.
“I know from myself, if I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would still go for the first vaccination. COVID’s ugly and I’ve seen some pretty ugly things. And if it’s anything to add an extra layer of protection, even if it’s gonna make me ill, if it’s gonna make me less ill as COVID would, I’ll take it,” explained Johnson.
Johnson and Mukenge both say they would not change getting the vaccine and say that in order for a return to normal, as many people as possible must take it.